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Natural Medicine

The Use of Natural Medicine
The majority of complementary medicine users appear to be doing so because they find these healthcare alternatives to be more congruent with their own values, beliefs and philosophical orientations towards health and life. At least half the Australian population uses one non-medically prescribed medicine and 20% visit a complementary medicine practitioner annually. In Australia, complementary therapies are now being prescribed in approximately 15% of all mainstream general practice consultations. In the year 2000, it was estimated that Australians spent $2.3 billion on Complementary Medicines which includes visits to complementary medicine practitioners and the cost of medicines. It is now almost 8 billion, and rising. The Australian government, however, provides no meaningful or formal budget allocation for research into the area.

The Principles of Natural Medicine
1. First do no harm, which involves using treatments that have minimal harmful effects and which avoid suppressing symptoms because this interferes with the healing process. 
2. Practitioner as teacher, to educate the patient and emphasise self responsibility for health. 
3. Treat the whole person because health and disease are due to an interdependent complex of physical, mental, genetic, environmental, social and spiritual factors. Homeopathic medicine recognises the harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual as being essential to health. Homeopathic medicine is ‘vitalistic’ in its approach, meaning that life is viewed as more than just the sum of biochemical processes, and the body is believed to have an innate intelligence that is always striving for health. 
4. Prevention, which is accomplished through education, promoting healthy living, assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease 
5. The healing power of nature, ‘vis medicatrix naturae’, is the inherent process of all living systems to maintain and restore health. Some practitioners describe this as the ‘vital force’ or ‘life energy’, which is similar to ‘qi’ or ‘prana’ found in other traditional medicines. It is the role of the homeopathic physician to support and facilitate nature’s healing power. 
6. Identify and treat the cause of disease in preference to eliminating or suppressing symptoms. Underlying causes of illness and disease must be identified and removed before complete recovery can occur. Symptoms can be expressions of the body’s attempt to defend itself, to adapt and recover, to heal itself, or may be results of the causes of disease.

Maintaining Health with Complementary Medicines

Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional or mainstream medical modalities. Complementary therapies are used in conjunction with conventional or mainstream medical modalities. Complementary medicine includes therapeutic practices that may not be part of the conventional medical health care system. The emphasis is on prevention or treatment using ‘mind and body’, rather than focusing on disease. For treatment, either natural substances or non-invasive procedures are used. They may lack biomedical explanations but as research is invested in this area, some of these modalities are becoming more widely accepted. The term ‘complementary medicine’ can be used to encompass a range of professional disciplines.

The Contrast between Orthodox & Complementary Medicine

Philosophical Underpinnings
Allopathic medicine is formed from a reductionist tradition. Reductionism means breaking things down into sections or parts to understand how they work (sometimes referred to as ‘mechanism’). This came about over many centuries as humankind tried to find the most appropriate way to study the complexities of the natural world. This is how orthodox medicine still operates today - the body is broken down into organs and organ systems which are studied as separate entities, in isolation of one another. For example, in the biomedical model the cause of tuberculosis is clearly defined as the invasion by the bacterium. Wholistic medicine looks at the body as a whole not existing as a sum of its parts. In addition, an wholistic approach also sees the body as not being divorced form the environment (physical and cultural) in which it exists. In the wholistic paradigm, therefore disease is the result of multiple environment-host interactions, and tuberculosis is therefore caused by the interrelationship of poverty, malnutrition, over crowding as well as the mycobacterium.

What is Disease
Orthodox medicine perceives disease as the direct result of the morbific agent (eg, bacteria) rather than the body’s response to the agent and its attempt to heal itself. The emphasis is on fighting the disease agent. This gives rise to pharmaceuticals, the development of drugs to combat the invading agent. Examples of drugs include anti-biotics, and anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral drugs. As well as fighting the actual disease agent, orthodox medicine tends to suppress the bodies own natural reaction to that agent, the symptoms, by using more drugs such as anti-inflammatory and anti-pyretic medication.

When considering illness or ‘dis-ease’, the natural therapist will look for the origin of the disharmony or imbalance causing sickness, whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual or mental. Each is interrelated so cannot be treated in isolation. Natural therapists believe the whole is more than the sum of its parts and that as the parts are interdependent they cannot be properly understood if considered or studied in isolation. An example could be high or constant stress levels which can be a major factor in many different health problems. Stress (a mental and emotional reaction) can manifest as high blood pressure or insomnia, which are physical ailments. This causes emotional imbalances such as frustration and anxiety. Treating the underlying problems creates a solution at the source. This enables balance or homeostasis to occur as associated problems tend to disappear. Acute, painful symptoms are also dealt with to give immediate relief. Natural therapists believe in using treatments that remind the body how to heal itself. Encouraging the body’s natural immunity and ability to heal will also strengthen the body. With the constant use of pharmaceutical medications, the body can become dependent and/or weakened.